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5 real struggles of being a ‘tarap’

Published on 20 March 2018|
2 min read

No, we don’t mean a literal tarap!

by Stanley P, Carrybeans

Tarap (or terap) is definitely a must-eat fruit for every Sabahan during musim buah. With a taste and smell that can rival durian, it’s no wonder that many locals want to eat it. In fact, even Malaysian singer Yuna prefers tarap to the king of fruits.

But I’m not here to talk about the deliciousness of the fruit. Instead, I want to talk about tarap being used as a way to describe Kadazandusun people who cannot speak in the native language.  Just as a “banana” is used to describe Chinese people who can only speak English, tarap is used for Kadazandusun.

As a tarap myself, I have at times struggled with not knowing the language or culture of my forefathers. And I’m sure there are a few tarap or bananas out there too, so let’s see how many of the struggles apply to you.


1. Clueless when our parents and relatives are talking

Credit: Freepik

Whenever I go back to any of my parents’ hometowns, I find myself sitting awkwardly as they talk in their native tongue. I would smile, look at them and feign understanding as to what they are saying, but they might as well bad-mouth me and I would be none the wiser. Over the years, I started picking up the general meaning of these conversations. However, talk too fast or use unfamiliar words and I’ll start back at zero.

2. Having the vocabulary of a toddler

Credit: Freepik

Recently, I’m been trying to learn the Rungus language from my mother. However, I often mix up the words or pronounce words wrongly. This has resulted in both frustration and laughter from her as she tries teaching her grown son words and phrases he should have known at age three.

3. Struggling to bargain with the aunties in the tamu

Credit: Freepik

One of the perks of being well-versed in the native language is that the chance of success in bargaining at the local wet market will be greater. If you talk in the aunties’ mother tongue, you may fall into the good books of the aunties as you immediately become part of the community. If you don’t, you can haggle all you want, but unless you know how to speak their language, you will have a hard time getting that discount.

4. Not being considered a true Kadazan/Dusun/Rungus/etc

Credit: makyzz

Now, I consider myself a true-blood Tatana and Rungus and the fact that I cannot speak the language doesn’t take that away from me. However, it’s still stings when the elders say, jokingly or not, that we are not a true native because we cannot speak the language.

5. Feeling responsible for the destruction of your culture and heritage

Credit: Vectorpocket

It’s no secret that more and more of the younger generation don’t know how to speak our native languages. The government have put in efforts to keep the language alive and it certainly helps. However, sometimes I feel it is my fault that the situation has come to this, which has now prompted me to take initiative to learn the language.

Do you have any stories about your struggle being a tarap? Share with us in the comments below.

Harith Iskander visited Sabah recently for his #KitaOK comedy tour, and our tummies hurt just from laughing!

Featured Image Credit: MySabah

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